Senator Thad Cochran, 81, has passed away. Cochran had a career in the United States Congress that lasted for more than 40 years.

Cochran was born in Pontotoc, Mississippi. He would marry twice. His first marriage was to Rose Clayton. They were married for roughly 50 years and had two children before she died. He would later marry his second wife, Kay Webber.

A lengthy career in public service

Cochran was valedictorian of his high school class. He graduated from the University of Mississippi before becoming an officer in the US Navy. After his military service, he graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Law.

He would work as an attorney for several years.

Earlier in life, Cochran was a Democrat. In 1972, as a Republican, he ran for Congress for the first time. He was elected to the US House of Representatives from Mississippi's 4th District. Cochran won the seat two more times.

In 1978, he was elected to the US Senate for the first time. He resigned early from his House seat to take his new Senate seat. Outgoing controversial Democratic Senator James Eastland had already vacated his seat. Eastland had been president pro tempore of the Senate at the time of his retirement.

Cochran was ultimately elected six more times to the Senate. According to CNN, he was ultimately the 10th-longest-serving US Senator in history.

On two separate occasions, he chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee. In addition, he chaired the Senate Agriculture Committee from 2005 to 2007. Within the Republican Party, he was vice chairman and later chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

In 2006, Time included Cochran on its list of 'America's 10 Best Senators'.

He was credited with being quiet but effective and was praised for his ability to persuade colleagues in private. Cochran retired from the Senate in 2018. He was replaced by fellow Democrat-turned-Republican, Cindy Hyde-Smith. She had been the Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce and a state senator.

Cochran narrowly missed out on becoming president pro tempore of the Senate, as his predecessor had been.

The position would've made him third in line to the US Presidency. In modern times, the post usually goes to the longest-serving member of the Senate's majority party. He was edged out by his fellow Republican, Orrin Hatch of Utah. Hatch entered the Senate the year before Cochran and exited it the year after.

Cochran's health had been failing

Cochran's health was known to have been in decline. As CBS reports, it's what led to his resignation in 2018. It's not yet known if his previous health issues were related to his death. An official cause hasn't yet been publicly announced.